Everyone, at some point, has experienced a period of not getting enough sleep, whether from insomnia, sleep disruption (kids and pets are famous for this), or simply not having enough time to sleep. And, the effect of sleep deprivation on mood, energy, focus, and overall quality of life can be profound.
Insomnia can take many forms, including trouble falling asleep, frequent or early waking, difficulty falling back to sleep, and restless or unrefreshing sleep. In Chinese medicine, the specific pattern of sleep disruption points to the underlying imbalance, and to the correct treatment. Unlike most Western treatment for insomnia, the main idea of Chinese medical treatment is to balance the body and mind so that good sleep begins to occur naturally and regularly.
There are many underlying “patterns of disharmony” that can cause insomnia. For example:
Insomnia with restless sleep, night sweats, hot flashes, and dry eyes may be due to Kidney yin deficiency.
A person who lies awake worrying and has sweet cravings, sensitive digestion, and fatigue may have underlying Spleen qi deficiency.
Feeling restless, tense, irritable or agitated when trying to fall asleep may indicate Liver qi stagnation; there may also be chronic pain, PMS, irregular periods, irritability, or chest pain.
Someone who sleeps lightly and wakes early, and has anxiety, heart palpitations, and dizziness, may have Heart blood deficiency.
Most people, of course, exhibit a combination of patterns, and acupuncture treatments and herbal formulas are adjusted to your particular situation. Acupuncture and herbs can help calm the nervous system and interrupt the cycle of disordered sleep, without the grogginess and potential for dependence that come with pharmaceutical sleep aids. More importantly, acupuncture and herbs can correct many of the actual causes of sleep disturbance, so that healthy sleep patterns continue long after stopping treatment.
Sleep can also be disrupted by physical symptoms, such as pain, digestive problems, or frequent night urination. In these cases, treating those health problems is often the key to improving sleep. And, the body heals much better when it is getting adequate rest, so sleep is also often the key to making progress with other health issues.
In addition to treating insomnia with acupuncture and herbs, there are many things you can do on your own to improve the quality of your sleep and address insomnia. See the article below for suggestions.